The ultimate conference survival guide: how to get the most from industry events
When it comes to conferences and trade shows, a bit of preparation is key if you want to maximise your time and squeeze value from every session.
Industry events are a great way to gain new skills, learn about emerging products, technologies and techniques, and forge new connections that could well create new business opportunities later down the line.
While they’re undoubtedly a great experience for new businesses looking for tips, insights and advice that can help them grow, the sheer volume of lectures, meetings and workshops can be overwhelming. Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do before, during and after to make sure you retain the key takeaways and don’t miss out on anything.
Here, we offer guidance on how to make sure you get the most out of any upcoming industry events, so you can feel the benefit of the latest business know-how and best-practice advice.
Before the event
Preparation is key if you want to seize on the opportunities a conference affords. It might be tempting to wander around and hop between rooms on the day of the event, but we’d advise spending some time in the months before reviewing the exhibitors and educational session lists on the event’s website. Plan which vendors or sessions you want to visit so you don’t waste valuable exhibit-hall time. Make sure you’re getting a good mix of topics, skill-building sessions and social events. Be extra judicious about it too; group together vendors by location so you don’t have to keep going back and forth.
As the event gets nearer and they become available, download the conference’s app if they have one. WiFi connectivity at these events tends to be weak, so it’s a good idea to get it downloaded to your device ahead of time. They’re also great for networking; use them to review attendees and look for potential partners, clients and new hires to meet on the day itself. It’s a good idea to update your LinkedIn profile to get it looking its best and send any requests you think you might benefit from.
Perhaps the best way to get the most from your conference is to participate as a presenter, volunteer or in another role. Rather than being one of the hundreds or thousands of attendees, a visible role means you’re more likely to stand out from the rest.
During the event
When you get there, scope out the first-timers briefing. They’re a good way to get a handle on the day ahead, and you’re sure to meet others who are in the same boat as you.
With all the sessions you’ll be attending, it’s essential that you’re using the time effectively and absorbing what you’re hearing. There’s a lot to take in, so there might be points raised over the course of the day that you’ll forget. Whatever you’re using to take notes, write down the three most salient points you’ve taken away from each session and include whether you plan to follow up on the topic after the event has ended.
It goes without saying that events and conferences are a great place to network, so make sure you’re taking your time to ask questions, introduce yourself and swap relevant contact details. It’s also a good idea to try and talk with the speakers themselves. There’s a reason they’re speaking at the event: they know what they’re talking about when it comes to their respective fields, so don’t be afraid to pick their brains. Likewise, put some time aside for the conference’s social events too, where you can do more of the same in a more relaxed environment. Think about some questions you’d like to ask beforehand to keep the conversation flowing naturally and remember to have your own quick-fire pitch ready if someone asks you about your business.
When you’re talking to others, use it as a way to align your company’s products or services with what they’re saying in order to determine if you’re a fit for them. If it becomes apparent that they are, then be sure to follow up with them afterwards.
Most conferences have exhibitors and vendors which are relevant to your industry. Use the event as a way of learning about new tools, technology and software that can help make your business more effective and efficient. Ask for demonstrations, case studies or customer examples and, if you’re really interested and looking to buy, ask for a price discount, which is a common practice at events such as these.
After the event
Take some time to review your key conference takeaways while things are still fresh. How was the event overall? What were the big wins or lessons you learned? What should your next moves be? List out the speakers, vendors or new hires that need to be contacted. When you’re back on home turf, share your notes with team members who didn’t attend.
Get some sleep! Events can be very tiring, especially if they span several days. Don’t burn yourself out trying to attend everything on offer, it just isn’t feasible. Look at your schedule and see what you absolutely must go to, that way, anything else you attend will be a bonus. Don’t stay up too late at the social events, rest easy, eat properly and get your head down early so you’re ready for the day ahead.
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